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Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (Hardcover)

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When Mitt Romney was secretly videotaped dismissing 47% of Americans as whining  "victims" who think that government "has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" he was paraphrasing beliefs spread by an increasingly powerful group of wealthy free market followers of Charles Koch and proteges of Robert Mercer (e.g. Steve Bannon, Mike Pence). Their roots, as exposed in Democracy in Chains,  go from slavery defender John C. Calhoun, to segregationists who fought "Brown versus Board of Education,"  to a small group of economists whose most influential members may not be F.A. Hayek (The Road to Serfdom) or Milton Friedman, but the less celebrated James McGill Buchanan (d. 2013). Author MacLean followed the trail to a neglected archive of Buchanan's correspondence and papers at George Mason University. What she found was the playbook of the so-called alt right, a group working to empower the very wealthiest and disenfranchise those who do not agree with privatizing government services-- excepting the police and military. A disturbing look at the intersection of social history and economic philosophy, and a riveting and cogent call to action, to take back government for all of the people



— From Carla's Picks


Finalist for the 2017 National Book Award

" A] vibrant intellectual history of the radical right . . ." - The Atlantic

"This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you're worried about what all this means for America's future, you should be" - NPR

An explosive expose of the right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.

Behind today's headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect--the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan--and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan's work in teaching others how to divide America into "makers" and "takers." And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.

Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.

About the Author

Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry (a New York Times "noteworthy" book of the year) and Freedom is Not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune "contemporary history at its best." The William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, she lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101980965
ISBN-10: 1101980966
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: June 13th, 2017
Pages: 368
Language: English